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Sleepless in America

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By Dan Gordon '85

Published Jul 1, 2007 8:00 AM


art

Copyright © Illustration by Hadley Hooper


A good night's sleep: You want it. You need it. But if you're like most adults, you don't get anywhere near enough. Here are 10 tips from the UCLA Center for Sleep Research to help you avoid accumulating "sleep debt."

Wake Up Right

Visit the National Sleep Foundation's web site. Check out "Mom's Sleep Test," learn how to be a sleep advocate, read national poll results on the subject and, in their Sleep Shop, buy pajamas, a sleepiness diary and many other shut-eye stuff. Having trouble sleeping? Call the UCLA Sleep Disorders Center at (310) 794-1195 for information and appointments.

It's time to wake up to the fact that we can't give sleep short shrift.

Everybody has an internal biological clock that tells us when we need some zzzzz's, yet most of us refuse to listen. We have busy schedules, so we cheat. We borrow from the seven to nine hours a night that the mind and body require, accumulating a "sleep debt." "In the short run, the body will be forgiving and allow you to go into debt, but you have to pay it back in good faith or eventually you will go bankrupt," warns Dr. Frisca Yan-Go, medical director of the UCLA Sleep Disorders Center and UCLA Autonomic Disorders Center.

In a pre-Edison world, when staying up late required burning candles, the average night's sleep was 10 hours. Now, Americans are burning the candle at both ends, logging an average of 6.9 hours of sleep on weeknights and 7.5 on weekends, according to a survey conducted by the National Sleep Foundation.

The consequences of chronic sleep deprivation aren't pretty. Approximately 100,000 motor vehicle accidents are caused by drowsy drivers, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Mentally, Yan-Go likens the symptoms of sleep deprivation to those of depression. "You become irritable, lose interest in things and don't think well," she says. Studies have also linked insufficient sleep with increased risk for certain health problems, including hypertension, diabetes and unhealthy weight gain.

Although insufficient quantity and quality of sleep is often related to medical problems, the good news, especially if you are sleep-deprived, is that most sleep disorders are treatable and the rewards of finally solving the problem are substantial.

So rest easy: You can pay off your sleep debt. Here are 10 tips we've collected from the experts at the National Sleep Foundation, the UCLA Sleep Disorders Center and the UCLA Autonomic Disorders Center that will help you do so.

Next Page: 10 Tips for Sleeping Like a Baby

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